The Holy Protomartyr and Equal of the Apostles Thecla was born in the city of Iconium. She was the daughter of rich and illustrious parents, and she was distinguished by extraordinary beauty. At eighteen years of age they betrothed her to an eminent youth. But after she heard the preaching of the holy Apostle Paul about the Savior, St. Thecla with all her heart came to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and she steadfastly resolved not to enter into marriage, but rather to devote all her life to preaching the Gospel.
St. Thecla’s mother was opposed to her daughter’s plans and insisted that she marry her betrothed. St. Thecla’s fiancé also complained to the prefect of the city about the Apostle Paul, accusing him of turning his bride against him. The prefect locked up St Paul in prison.
During the night St. Thecla secretly ran away from her house, and she bribed the prison guards, giving them all her gold ornaments, and so made her way into the prison to the prisoner. For three days she sat at the feet of the Apostle Paul, listening to his fatherly precepts. Thecla’s disappearance was discovered, and servants were sent out everywhere looking for her. Finally, they found her in the prison and brought her home by force.
When she continued to refuse marriage, St. Thecla was sentenced to be burned. Without flinching, the holy martyr went into the fire and made the Sign of the Cross over herself. At this moment the Savior appeared to her, blessing her present deed, and inexpressible joy filled her holy soul.
A strong downpour of rain and hail extinguished the fire. The torturers scattered in fear. St. Thecla, kept safe by the Lord, searched and found St. Paul, who was nearby with St. Barnabas and others, praying for her. St. Thecla went with them preaching the Gospel in Antioch. There, she was pursued by a certain dignitary named Alexander, who was captivated by her beauty. St. Thecla refused his offer of marriage, and so she was condemned to death for being a Christian. Twice they set loose hungry wild animals upon her, but they would not touch the holy virgin. Instead, they lay down meekly and licked her feet.
The Providence of God preserved the holy martyr unharmed through all her torments. Finally, they tied her to two oxen and began to chase her with red-hot rods, but the strong cords broke asunder like cobwebs, and the oxen ran off, leaving St. Thecla unharmed. The people began shouting, “Great is the God of the Christians!” The prefect himself became terrified, realizing that the holy martyr was being kept safe by the Almighty God, Whom she served and gave orders to set free the servant of God Thecla.
With the blessing of the Apostle Paul, St. Thecla then settled in a desolate region of Isaurian Seleucia and dwelt there for many years, constantly preaching the Word of God and healing the sick through her prayer. St. Thecla converted many pagans to Christ, and the Church appropriately names her as “Equal- to-the-Apostles.”
When St. Thecla was already a ninety-year-old woman, pagan sorcerers became incensed at her for treating the sick for free. They were unable to comprehend that the saint was healing the sick by the power of the grace of Christ, and they presumed that the virgin-goddess Artemis was her special helper. Envious of St. Thecla, they sent their followers to defile her. When they came near her, St. Thecla cried out for help to Christ the Savior, and a rock split open and hid the holy virgin. Thus did St. Thecla offer up her holy soul to the Lord.
The holy Church glorifies the Protomartyr Thecla as “the glory of women and guide for the suffering, opening up the way through every torment.” From of old many churches were dedicated to her. The Protomartyr Thecla, a prayerful intercessor for ascetics, is also invoked during the tonsure of women into monasticism.
(adapted from oca.org)
On Wednesday, September 24, the area clergy will gather at St. George to concelebrate Orthros and Divine Liturgy for the feast of St. Thecla.
With love in Christ,